Are we still eating purees? Babies, of course, unless they are fed with the supplemental feeding method on demand. But adults… only when the dentist condemns us to oral implants, when they forbid us to chew solids until the fake tooth is screwed in, feeling half infant and half elderly? What’s up, at all: the puree It is still alive in the homes of the cooks, who continue to grind everything, vegetables, mushrooms, fruit or lentils, because puree is the easiest way to enjoy it with a spoon. Some of us even long for those sachet flakes that freeze-dried our childhood.
But, what has happened in the restaurants, have the purees disappeared? It seems. Or not: perhaps the hummus, the cause of Lima or the coulis of red fruits, are not simple purées? Didn’t they call guacamole “the mash of the gods”? What else contains a salmorejo, if not a tomato purée with a sauce? The same thing Yankee peanut butter or Dominican banana mangú: why then is the chef of the 21st century embarrassed by a word that brings together both a technique and a recipe seed?
The purée in the history of cooking
We turn to several gastronomic bibles from different eras to understand how this burial has been forged. In My kitchen de Escoffier, published in 1934, there are 17 purees and 12 creams. In the 1,080 cooking recipes by Simone Ortega, from 1972, you can find 13 purees and 14 creams (including pastry creams). In the first volume of The menu of each day by Karlos Arguiñano, from 1992, five creams. The purée was, therefore, a fundamental leg of gastronomy during the last century, however, since then it has rushed into oblivion like that coarse mountain that the protagonist of Encounters in the Third Phase molded on the plate.
In 1999, to celebrate the change of the millennium, Ferrán Adrià and Juan Mari Arzak published a book with exquisite recipes that will cheer up the first Christmas of the 2000s: family lunches and dinners based on truffles, lobsters, sea breams, eels and a lot of foie gras. A smug shopping cart that portrayed a time, when we did not suspect that the scaffolding of speculation was going to crumble, that the internet was something more than technology, that the joyous industrial relocation would leave us at the mercy of China and that that economy of workers with bemeuves and pool would be finished in 2008 never to return. In 1999, Spain only saw fields of roses and oysters ahead.
Ferrán and Juan Mari presented their turn-of-the-century book as the “consequence of many efforts made in Spain over the last thirty years”, as a synthesis of the “modernization” of our cuisine after joining “the movement represented by Paul Bocuse in France”. In other words, to the Nouvelle Cuisine. In its last pages, Celebrate the millennium with Arzak & Adrià It included the basic preparations for those complex recipes: oils, broths, juices, sauces, and also three purees: chickpeas, leeks and potatoes.
However, the purees were not mentioned in the names of the dishes. They remained buried, with the sole exception of the “fatty purée”, or mashed potatoes with foie. Because the Age of the Brick was also the Age of the Duck: everything that touched its liver was transformed into culinary gold. As we stop saying “mash” we begin to pronounce “cream”, “foam”, “air”, “cloud”, swelling up like delayed payments on a credit card.
Twenty-two years later, it is extremely rare to find a purée as a main course on a menu, or even as a side dish. Few cooks keep an exiled word that, in the snobbish Instagram mindset, even suggests professional laziness: it looks like you’ve just scrambled something, a poor spooky pumpkin unable to scare on Halloween or a miserable tearless peas. In the best of cases, the menus present a “parmentier” or perhaps some solitary “cream”, a term also in disuse because it resonates with the sick, with hospital food. to dying Do the dead have anything to say about the mash? Well yes, and a lot. Even our oldest ancestors.
origin and end
Paul Bocuse, considered the best chef of the 20th century, passed away in 2018. In his most influential book, the market kitchen, from 1976, left a tribute to the humble mashed potatoes that sums up his philosophy, applying all his ingenuity in the search for the perfect mash. New kitchen to embellish what was inherited, the modest consumption of his grandparents. In 2018, Joël Robuchon, the chef with the most Michelin stars in history, also passed away. Do you know what was the most applauded dish of his, the one that all the eulogies underlined? Damn: the mashed potatoes.
Perhaps the Spanish incorporation to the Nouvelle Cuisine ended up forgetting the popular character of the movement, the citizen roots of that lucky French coven. Because here we do not begin to really claim the market kitchenthe product versus the avant-garde, until we ran out of money after the recession of 2008. When the technocuisine ran out of customers among the middle class and we returned to the fouagras in force.
Some superb purees, like those of Hilario Arbelaitz either Martin Berasategui they have been acclaimed by the gourmet community, but, in general, we have forgotten a dish that encapsulates the history of cooking, which is the origin and the end: porridge with which life welcomes you, lightens your maturity and bids you farewell in old age as the last supper. But also puree as the genesis of the intelligent ape, that evolved mammal that today is heading towards extinction destroying its planet.
The kitchen, understood as the control of fire to feed us better, began by burning cereals, vegetables and greens to later crush them and make them digestible. Richard Wrangham, author of On fire. How cooking made us human, emphasizes that the tubers played a fundamental role in this process, by propitiating with their consumption the reduction of our stomachs and the enlargement of the brain. The mash raised us as sapiens above the australopithecus. We made the planet a market when we learned to cook it, heating it and crushing it.
the original element
In the case of mashed potatoes, king of kings, its history is even more fascinating. The potato comes from the Andean mountains of Peru and northwestern Bolivia, where the original plant was toxic. Some animals learned to ingest it by first licking clay, to which the tuber’s toxins adhered, removing the danger to the organism. Andean humans, alert, they did the sameoften crushing it to break its hardness.
In the 16th century, when the Spanish invaded America, the potato was already edible, but it was despised as an infamous food for the poor and beasts. The Church did not accept it as payment of the tithe and the aristocracy threw it to the pigs and to the servants. The European peasants of several centuries owe their survival to the stupidity of the rich: when the tuber was missing, hunger he killed at will among the unfortunate.
The love of potatoes did not become widespread until the 18th century, when Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was captured by the Prussians during the Seven Years’ War and forced to eat potatoes like an enemy pig. Parmentier returned to France liberated, well fed and with a monumental Stockholm syndrome, to the point of convincing Louis XVI to promote the cultivation and consumption of potatoes among his subjects. If you ran into it on the street, Parmentier would give you an amazing caption about how delicious it was, especially mixed in a buttered purée: it got so heavy, that they ended up giving their last name to the recipe.
Since then, the mash is identity in half the world. In the United States and the United Kingdom, it serves as a garnish for thanksgiving turkey and the breakfast sausages, two flagship dishes. In Germany, crushed peas also accompany the patriotic knuckle of pork. In Spain we have eaten purees at close range, from turnips to chestnuts, because it is not in vain that we take longer than the rest of Western Europe to stop being toothless, to access progress. “Puré” comes from the French “purée”, in turn descended from the Latin “purer”, which means to purify or refine. It is quite sad that we are forgetting it precisely because we believe ourselves refined in the face of the old.